New parents have plenty to worry about: making sure their baby is healthy and happy, re-arranging their lives around hectic schedules and lost sleep, and figuring out what to do in all sorts of novel situations. When it comes to your child's oral health, though, there's plenty of help available. It all begins at our office, when you bring your youngster in for his or her first visit to the dentist.
When will we meet your child? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child's first checkup should occur by age one. Surprised? You shouldn't be! Even though there may only be a few baby teeth visible at that age, there are plenty of things we can start working on — including the development of healthy habits that will make future visits to the dentist far more pleasurable.
Unfortunately, some kids develop tooth decay at an early age. We will be on the lookout for cavities — but that's only one reason for an early visit to our office. Equally important is reviewing the proper ways to care for a young child's mouth, going over your child's developmental milestones, and discussing the importance of good oral hygiene.
The way kids seem to pick up on their parents' feelings sometimes seems uncanny; so, if you're nervous about going to the dentist yourself, try not to let it show. Generally, during this visit we'll simply be talking to you and your child, looking in his or her mouth, and making oral health assessments. It's best to tell your child what to expect beforehand, without making too big a fuss about it. You could even build some excitement by helping them get ready for “the big day.”
When you come in, it's a good idea to bring a comforting toy, a snack, and an extra diaper or two, just in case of fussiness. If possible, leave other kids at home, so we can concentrate on the new patient — but if you can bring another adult along, it may free your attention to focus on your child's oral health. Likewise, filling out forms in advance may save time and effort on the day of the visit.
When you and your child are comfortably seated in the office, we'll spend a few minutes getting to know each other and explaining what we will be doing. Then, we'll perform a gentle examination of the mouth. We will be looking for any early signs of dental problems such as tooth decay, and assessing the risk that your child may develop the disease in the future.
Often, this kind of risk assessment can help us prevent — and even reverse — the early stages of tooth decay, without any drilling.
Finally, we'll discuss various ways to keep your child's oral health in top condition. For instance, we may talk about how diet, eating habits and oral hygiene practices can help prevent tooth decay, the most common chronic disease of childhood. That's an important subject for everyone — even more so if your child is at greater risk. If any treatments (such as fluoride) are needed, we will explain what they are and why we recommend them. We will also review tips on cleaning and brushing effectively, and we'll schedule a follow-up visit as required.
Many habits are developed early in life. That's why it's important to “get it done by age one.” So when it's time for your child's first visit… don't hesitate! You'll be glad you came in.